The Venky's Reign of Error:The Tyranny Of Ignorance by Dean Jones

Article originally posted at: BRFC Supporters Internet Site

Fri, 26 Apr 2013

Blackburn Rovers Football Club is a club desperately in need. It is in need of direction. It is in need of stability. It is in need of an approach to its public dealings that is open and honest, yet astute, intelligent and well-informed. What it certainly does not need is the likes of hapless global advisor Shebby Singh involved at any level.


The controversial figure has been causing controversy once again this week, defending the club’s Indian owners Venky’s whilst launching a scathing attack on the people looking to take the club from their clearly incompetent hands.


Singh is a symbol of everything that has been wrong at the football club for the last two years. A former Malaysian international and Asian football pundit, Singh arrived on the scene at Blackburn in 2012 with the title “global advisor”. Few knew what that title actually meant and what responsibilities Singh actually had to justify his £400,000 a year salary, but there was so much confusion surrounding Blackburn at the time that it went relatively unnoticed.


It wasn’t long before Singh began making a name for himself by putting his foot in his mouth. In a question and answer session with fans set up by the Blackburn Rovers Football Community Action Group in August 2012, Singh admitted that beleaguered manager Steve Kean’s position would be untenable if the side lost three games in a row in the Championship, which obviously went down well with fans who blamed Kean for the club’s relegation. Singh should have left it at that as it was a headline-making statement all by itself. However, with the spotlight and the camera on him he continued to make bold statements by claiming Blackburn’s longest-serving player Morten Gamst Pedersen was a “pensioner” who could no longer be counted on for high-level performances. The fans did not take well to this callous remark over one of their most committed players. Singh had put his foot in his mouth, where it has largely remained since.


Kean, of course, duly left. Whether he jumped or was pushed is still unclear. What was clear was Singh’s influence over Rovers and the owners of the club. Singh was now appearing regularly on TV and radio stating he was running the club with the authority of Venky’s. All may have appeared rosy behind the scenes, but in fact there was a bitter power struggle developing between Singh and board members Derek Shaw and Paul Agnew that would eventually plunge the club into an even deeper crisis.


The first conflict occurred in relation to the appointment of Kean’s successor. Singh was adamant that he wanted an ex-player to come in and galvanise players and supporters alike. Shaw and Agnew, on the other hand, had identified Ian Holloway from neighbours Blackpool as the man to take Rovers back to the promised land. Singh’s influence with the owners was key and Henning Berg was appointed. A Premier League winner with Rovers in 1995, Berg was relatively inexperienced and had had little success in his time managing in his native Norway. Singh had got his way though and it was clear for all to see he couldn’t be happier about it.


Berg’s reign as Rovers manager was a catastrophe. He was removed after just 57 days and one victory. The rumour was that Shaw and Agnew had gone to Venky’s behind Singh’s back and called for action to be taken. It is not known whether this is true, but it’s hard to envisage Singh wanting Berg removed after fighting his corner so hard in the first place. This was an extremely embarrassing moment for Singh and his silence spoke volumes. He now appeared to be on the fringes of the decision-making process at Rovers.


Singh was apparently excluded altogether from the selection process for their next manager as Shaw and Agnew had appeared to have won the power struggle. They again looked to Blackpool as they had wanted to do previously. Ian Holloway had long since departed for Crystal Palace; the man was Michael Appleton. Appleton was seen as the no-nonsense manager that was needed to give these talented but underachieving players a lift.


The result? A reign almost as short as Berg’s.


67 days is all it took for Singh to bend the owners’ ear regarding his ability and Appleton was subsequently removed. The football club was now in absolute chaos and was in freefall on its way to back-to-back relegations. Rarely out of the glare of the media spotlight, it was clear that Singh felt he was back in charge of affairs. Singh seems to crave the attention and on this occasion it was no different. He was quick to distance himself from Appleton’s appointment and declared Gary Bowyer would now take over managerial duties until the end of the season while they searched for the “right appointment”. With so much friction behind the scenes and managers suffering as a result, you have to wonder what manager in their right mind would want to work under these conditions?


A report recently published in the Daily Mail shows just how naïve Venky’s and Singh have been in the transfer market and how this is threatening to plunge Blackburn into financial meltdown. Singh had signed five relatively unknown players from Portugal during the pre-season, three of whom have already been shipped out of the club on loan. While the players were relatively cheap, the agent fees of over £600,000 are extraordinary, especially considering between them these players have made just four league starts.


It gets worse: Rovers have committed £30 million for 13 players under Singh in contracts, agent fees and transfer fees, while the agent acting for Colin Kazim-Richards, Dickson Etuhu, Danny Murphy and Leon Best was paid £1 million for his part in their transfers. Add to that the compensation due to ex-managers Kean, Berg and Appleton and the extortionate wages reportedly being paid to players that are simply past their best — Murphy on £35,000 per week, Etuhu on £30,000 per week — and estimates of £2 million a month losses at Blackburn seem far from unrealistic. And point to the inept running of a football club, on a scale that has seldom been seen before in this country.

Singh has clearly been taken for a ride by opportunistic agents who see the owners’ lack of experience as a perfect chance to make money. This isn’t the first time this has happened to Venky’s, and the fact Singh was given the responsibility to remedy the situation yet has failed miserably merely compounds the situation.


With his latest outburst last weekend in an interview with in India, Singh has distanced himself even further from the fans. Once touted as a go-between between the owners and fans, Singh has now shown his true colours with some ill-considered remarks aimed at those who are trying to save the club from the very incompetence that he represents: “There are people over there who would not be able to run a bar, and they think they can run a football club so I wouldn’t pay any attention or waste my time on them.”

Irony indeed. His questioning of their motives when he asks “Where were these people when the club was for sale for many years?” merely underlines the level of ignorance of the man brought in as global advisor to the Venky’s, who would be well advised not to listen to someone who himself has never been involved in the administration or management of a professional football club and displays none of the qualities that might suggest he is capable of doing so.

Venky’s cannot keep running this once proud club from India — that is certain. Their distance from the infighting tearing the club apart speaks volumes. Singh now has the look of an irrational dictator quoting the very man who he looked to oust when he took the position of global advisor. Terms like “wholesale changes” and “cleansing the club” have all been heard before and the fans are tired of it. For nearly three years now it has been a lot of big talk and not a lot of action and if things continue as they are, things are going to come crashing down in a monumental way. The fans must revolt against this tyranny and fight for what the club has stood for throughout its 138-year existence.

Singh, like Kean before him, states that the fans are behind him and he has “built a good relationship with the fans”. This is more bravado from Singh. Anyone who has stepped foot inside Ewood Park at any time in the last few months knows that is not the case. Singh and Venky’s have sucked the heart and soul out of the club and the worst thing is they don’t even realise it. Rovers still have two critical games that could decide if they stay in the Championship. If they do stay up, they will be fortunate — that is for sure. The backroom bickering for control has no doubt had an affect on the players, who have appeared disinterested and as confused as everybody watching.


This was a team that was one of the pre-season favourites for promotion and most experts predicted a swift return to the top flight. They couldn’t have got it more wrong. The highest paid squad in the Championship has flattered to deceive and Rovers have found themselves fighting for their lives. After the weekend defeat to Watford four points were needed from the three remaining games to all but guarantee survival. With the win over Millwall on Tuesday we now need just one further point to crawl over the finishing line.


Everyone can see what’s at stake…

Everyone but Singh, the tyrannical leader Blackburn Rovers just don’t need.


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